Can Bionic Robo-Fish Cure Microplastic Pollution in Oceans?
Scientists are working on a bionic robo-fish that can self-propel, grab free-floating microplastics, and even repair themselves if damaged or harmed
Microplastics are one of the major environmental pollutants in the world today. From the Antarctic snow to the top of Mount Everest and even human blood, microplastics are circulating everywhere. However, their worst impact is on our vast oceans. When the plastics break down into tiny pieces and fish consume them, they can create havoc on marine ecosystems. To stop that, scientists are creating a bionic robo-fish. This robotic fish can clean up microplastic pollution from the oceans while swimming, according to scientists.
As per a recent study published in the journal Nano Letters, scientists at Sichuan University in China have curated a unique fish bot to eliminate microplastics. According to the researchers, a fleet of robo-fish could be used for transporting pollutants to a safe place. At those specified locations, these bionic fish can collect and dispose of the trash. It could even monitor and identify microplastics in extreme environments. Such places are difficult for humans to access due to the frigid ocean water.
If you’re concerned about water contamination and what if the robo-fish gets damaged, the researchers have a solution for that as well. These are tiny self-propelled robo-fish that swim around and eat up free-floating microplastics, Meanwhile, the fish bots can repair themselves if they get broken or cut.
The robo-fish measures only 13mm long. However, owing to its light laser system within the tail, it flaps and swims around over 30mm per second. It’s the same principle as that of the plankton moving within the ocean water.
The researchers used marine life-inspired materials to make the robo-fish. For instance, they took inspiration from mother-of-pearl (also called nacre) to make the coating of clam shells. They curated a material similar to the nacre by stacking various tiny molecule sheets as per the chemical gradient of the nacre.
The resulted fish bot is flexible, stretchable, and able to pull around 5 kg of weight. Since the heavy metals and organic colors found in microplastics have strong chemical bonds, the bionic fish could adsorb nearby free-floating microplastics. Hence, bionic fish can gather and remove microplastics from the water with ease.
Furthermore, the new material boasts regenerative properties. So, it can self-heal and recover the robot fishes up to 89 percent of its capability in case of any cut or damage during stormy seas.
The researchers still have to work a lot on this fish bot. Currently, it can float on water surfaces only. Now scientists are working on new nanomaterials to improve functionalities so that they can even survive in complicated and deeper water levels.
If the scientists successfully create a practical robo-fish, it can help in solving the drastic microplastic pollution in the world. For this, they have to develop a fish robot to precisely collect and sample detrimental microplastic pollutants from the marine environment.